Monsoon is the much awaited season in India. The rains bring in relief from the long spell of hot and dry weather. Everything turns green and looks fresh. With a plan to capture some of these wonderful gifts of nature, few waterfalls and landscapes, I set out on a short trip. My route was blocked by an overflowing stream, part of which was flowing on top of the road. What followed were a few hours well spent photographing the place around the stream.
(A bird’s eye view of the overflowing stream – photographed at a slow shutter speed from a high point with a 50mm Nikkor lens)
While I was typing out the title of this article, I was asked that why do I call it a stream and not a river. Here is a very simple explanation that I found sometime back – Generally, the difference is size: you can step over a brook, jump over a creek, wade across a stream, and swim across a river. The one that blocked my road was definitely an overflowing stream.
I had packed my camera bag with a Nikon camera body, a Zeiss 25mm f/2 lens, a Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AIs lens and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens. I know that these are more than my usual two lens standard but then I was traveling in a car and had enough space. I also had a tripod in the boot. I was planning to carry a dark ND filter but unfortunately I did not have it due to some problems with an online purchase that I had made.(Regular Store or Online Shop?) I had also packed in a dark polarizer. Apart from the usual microfiber cloth for lenses, there was a large sized microfiber cloth too in my camera bag. Rains can be quite unpredictable and a large microfiber cloth really helps.
(A small truck crossing the overflowing stream. One look at the submerged rear tires of the truck was good enough for me to make up my mind against crossing the stream in my car)
There is a beautiful waterfalls, not far from where I was staying on my recent trip. With everything in place, I left for the place early in the morning, along with my friends. Somewhere on the midway, flows a small stream. Due to heavy rains, it was overflowing and covered the road as well. The flow was strong and I did not have the guts to cross it in my low set car. This happens every year it seems and when it happens, only some of the trucks are able to cross the stream. One of the villages told me a scary story about a motorbike getting washed out to the valley last year due to the flow of this overflowing stream. After parking my car safely at one side of the road, I took out my photography equipment.
(Flowing Water – Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens set at f/16 with a polarizer mounted on. ISO 50 and shutter speed of 0.8 sec)
First I went close to the stream. The water was chilling to touch and I could feel the flow even at the periphery of the stream. This was no longer a stream through which a person could wade across. Chilled water! One of my friends found a place where he could safely place a few beer bottles dipped in the water. A natural refrigerator. From his intentions I understood that I had enough time to photograph around. The bottles were going to take a couple of hours to get properly chilled.
The fast flow of the water with a few rocks strewn in the pathway, ensured enough turbulence in the water to attract me. The first few photographs were going to be motion blurs. The tripod was set and I locked my camera in place. The wide angle lens was too wide and I did not want to go very close to the stream. So, I mounted the 50mm lens. Alas! No ND filter. Screwed on the polarizer, and then to compensate further for the long exposures that I wanted, I had to stop down the aperture to f/16. ISO was set at 50. This is the minimum that my camera provides. Even with these settings, I was struggling with shutter speeds of 1 and 2 seconds. A good ND filter is the correct way to go for proper motion blurs. Reducing the aperture to that extreme softens the photographs by diffraction effects. Polarizers play around with reflections and in the process end up reducing the impact of the overall photographs. After-all shine on the rocks conveys the wetness which is natural to such scenes. (Polarizing Filters)
(Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 G lens at f/16, ISO 50, shutter speed 1.6 sec)
I was able to create some good motion blur photographs.(Creating Motion Blurs) The important consideration is to have a few sharply focused non-mobile objects in the frame. These immobile objects increase the impact of the overall composition. They act as points of reference and anchor our subconscious minds to themselves. The rocks in the stream were my anchors for the compositions. Another interesting fact about photographing after rains in such green areas is the green cast. The trees and shrubs act as giant green reflectors and almost all the photographs in such locations tend to have a green cast on them. Addition of about 10% of Magenta at the time of post-processing takes care of this cast.
A few water droplets had settled on my camera and lens body as well. The large microfiber cloth helped and I was able to wipe them away. Water is an enemy of electronics and optics but a little bit of moisture or couple of droplets should not scare away the photographer in you.
(Waterfalls on the road side – f/11, 1 sec shutter speed at ISO 50)
On the way back, I photographed a small waterfalls which initially I had just driven by. This was just a small brook falling down on some steep rocks. Located on the side of the road, I could photograph it from the road itself. There were some kids present there who were intrigued by the photography equipment and more so by what I had captured on my camera. Maybe when they grow up, they too will become artists, painters or photographers. For those of you wondering about the beer bottles, I was on the steering wheel on this trip, so my friends ensured that the chilled beer did not go waste.
Though I could not reach the destination that we had planned but photographing this wonderful stream was fulfilling for my artistic senses. Lessons learnt on the trip – 1. ND filter is required for good motion blurs in complete daylight. (Neutral Density Filters) 2. Never carry beer and friends in the same car.